Bay Watch

Bay Watch? Yes, I do a lot. I do it on dry land and it can be most distracting to your real work. Every new babe that I am watching can be quite a bundle when my credit card bills arrive. The babes get me high when I receive them but sometimes I have to fight real hard to win them because there are also other suitors. Where? Which bay? It’s ebay.

ebay has become the default market place for many audiophiles when shopping for music. From my curious days of signing up as a member to chalking up some serious credit card reward points through my itchy fingers in a matter of six months, eBay has its lure and power. I am not here to bore you with some e-Commerce strategy talk but share with you some of my fallacy, adventures and experiences of buying music in this world market.

Believe it or not, I got screwed in my virgin ebay deal. My registered mail to a seller with an enclosed bank draft was lost in transit! There was no recourse action on the registered mail as my post office confirmed that the letter did arrive in the country’s post office. Revoke the bank draft would incur some administrative fees and further jet up the total cost of this transaction. So do I sue the post office at the other end of the world for negligence? Never mind. Case closed. Lesson 1 learnt.

So to reduce your already risky business of sending money to a stranger, look for another seller who accepts credit card payment. The word is ‘patience’ but its easier said than done. What do you do when you are facing a now or never  item and has to take this non-online payment mode? The method I have had some success so far is concealed cash. In my opinion, due to the high administrative cost and trouble, concealed cash is a lesser evil than sending a bank draft or money order. Of course, the cash amount here must not be big and you may have to “tip” along the way (you would send US$30 in notes instead of US$29.30 would you?). A tip to conceal your cash is to use gatefold postcard and shape it to the size of your envelope and stick your dollar notes onto the inside of the postcard. I hope no bored postman is reading this.

In my thirty deals so far, I have so far met only one dishonest seller (touch-wood). He described his two Police LPs that I was interested in as new (or like new) but when I received it, they were full of lines and abrasions. Of course I filed my complaints and coincidentally, about the same time the negative feedback of this seller was mounting. Shortly, he abandoned his eBay identity or could have been banned. Looking back, I was glad that at least he bothered to send the LPs to me as he could have taken my money and run. As such, my next advice to buying from strangers is look at his track record (or feedback) before bidding. If you smell one too many negative feedback, stay away.

You have stomach for another bad one? It is extremely tempting and easy to be impulsive doing bay watching. You know, nice shape, good figure, go for it. If you do not read the details like shipping to US only or $X for shipping and handling (S&H) fees, you may end up getting more than you asked for. Also, always write to the seller to enquire about S&H before you bid. Be told that some sellers make their money through shipping and not from their goods. The seller could surprise you if you ask only after winning a bid. Of course you can dishonour the transaction but audiophiles are honourable people, aren’t we?

Want a good ending to the story? I will end by telling you some good things. Ever heard of sellers giving you free worthy records (of course you must prove your value first) because there are empty spaces in the shipping package? How about a seller who couldn’t bare the thought of shipping his beautiful LP via boat and done it with airmail at his expense? I got a beautiful 180g DCC double LP in record time – 3 days after closing! This sweet deal more than compensated for my early shipping troubles.

Bidding in ebay is addictive, seductive, counter-productive and at times disruptive, to your sleep. Bid when you’re sure, bid for what it is worth and never get into a bidding war. In the end, nothing beats the winning feeling.

Note: This flashback article first appeared on my blog on 21st Jan 2002. Since then, ebay has become much more secured, protecting both  buyers and sellers. But still, it is a virtual world and let the buyer beware.



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